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Monday, December 24, 2012

Test Run: Facebook\'s Poke App Is a Head-Scratcher

A photo of my friend Peter's dog pops up on my phone for three seconds, then disappears. I respond with a picture of an enormous pile of nachos I'm working on at a Brooklyn bar.

Later in the night, I send my colleague Jenna a video of my cat kneading her paws in a plastic bag. She replies with a video of her family's puppy prancing around, which vanishes after five seconds.

I get some messages from other friends that promptly disappear as well. Most of them say something along the lines of, “What is the point of this?” or “This is so weird.”

Indeed, it's hard to grasp what the point of the Facebook Poke app really is. Poke, which came out last week, is a clone of Snapchat, an app popular among teenagers. Many have labeled Snapchat a “sexting” app - a messaging platform ideally suited for people who want to send short-lived photos and videos of you-know-what to get ea ch other feeling lusty. The files self-destruct in a few seconds, ideally relieving you of any shame or consequence, unless, of course, the recipient snaps a screenshot. (Both Poke and Snapchat alert you if a screenshot has been taken.)

It's a bit of a head scratcher for adults, like me and my Facebook friends, who aren't inclined to sext with one another. We're more used to uploading photos of pets, food, babies and concerts, which aren't nearly as provocative.

The most interesting aspect of Poke is that you can only send photos and videos of what you're doing right now; you can't send people a nice photo saved in your library from your trip to Spain a month ago. In this way, it gives your friends a glimpse into the moments of your life as you're experiencing them. You can't use any filters, or even use flash, to distort these moments.

I can sort of dig that - living in a moment with my friends. But chances are, if I'm experiencing something that feels lik e a meaningful moment, I'm not going to be looking at it through a smartphone.

The Poke app doesn't seem to be catching on to my other non-sexting friends, either; out of my 500 friends on Facebook, only 31 have installed it, and all of them work in the tech industry. Apparently not many people want to get a quick peek at my cat sitting on the couch.